By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit
Like most other Thais, Chutima Dumsuwan has hundreds of images in her smartphone’s photo album. Unlike others though, most of them are portraits of her clients rather than pictures of her friends and family members. That’s because Chutima is a member of a new breed of consultants and her main responsibility is ensuring her clients present themselves properly and smartly and that what they write about on their Facebook and Instagram feeds isn’t going to come back and bite them.
Like a double-edged sword, social networks can be friendly as well as vicious. Just one word or one picture posted on the online platforms can launch you to stardom or catastrophe overnight. And it’s no longer possible to opt out. Everyone needs some kind of social media presence, even more so if they happen to be the top figures in their companies or a celebrity. Traditional media like newspapers and television are all very well but they have limited space to offer.
Executives are concerning about their social media presence and the help of social media manager/consultant is taking into consideration./AFP
The problem lies in the presentation. After decades of experience in communication strategies at such top companies like Jim Thompson and Giffarine, Chutima’s job is to serve as a social media manager to executives.
“My job is to help my clients deliver their personal branding on social media to ensure their own and their companies’ positive reputation. The three keys are to purpose their personality and passion, to show off their expertise, and to echo their voices on current issues to reach a range of readers. They have to agree and approve every visual image and item of content before it gets fed online,” says Chutima who after resigning from her last post as the communication director of Jim Thompson set up her own firm Communicate Different.
Since launching the company a couple of months ago, Chutima, who is in her 40s, has managed digital accounts for two clients – one the chief executive of a top company and the other a business entrepreneur. She also serves as an image consultant for a politician.
Chutima conducts extensive interviews and researches her clients’ past interviews with others to get a better understanding of their characters, personalities and passions from the eyes of an outsider. From there, she develops a strategic plan to build up their online reputation.
“What is posted online must be true and consistent with their passion, interest and expertise. It must be a reliable and trustworthy presence on the networks. Basically, I will plan a monthly calendar on the concept and topic on which they should speak in the online world that’s relevant to the current situation. The visual images and their portraits are carefully selected to go well with the content.
“The communication must be consistent. For Facebook, I suggest having about four feeds a week or 15 posts a month while on Instagram, 20 posts are acceptable,” says Chutima whose portfolio includes stints as communication relations officer at Laguna Phuket Hotel and corporate communications executive at Giffarine.
Chutima took a course on Facebook marketing to increase effectiveness and also researched their clients’ followers to find out which topics these people are interested in.
“I keep an eye on global trends to identify interesting topics and design digital content that matches my clients’ expertise to present their potential to a wide range of readers,” she adds. “People today feel unstable due to the uncertainty in the economic and political situations. Therefore, content that is encouraging and inspiring is among the interesting feeds.”
The followers she wants to build up for her clients include the press and the influencers who can help build up their status as opinion leaders.
She is encouraging her two clients to create Facebook live feeds to achieve higher engagement but both feel uncomfortable about appearing in real-time. But Chutima is patient and says when her clients become more comfortable online, her next phase is to set up the YouTube channels and Podcasts.
Of course, there are executives quite capable of managing their own online presence and shoring up the positive image of their companies. Take Rawit Hanutsaha, the third generation of the legendary facial powder Srichand, who has successfully rebranded
his family’s old-fashioned product.
Wearing other hats as a marathon athlete, an author and an avid reader, Rawit runs his Facebook page “Mission to the Moon” and the Podcast programme “5 Minutes” to share his thoughts on business, marketing management and life-inspiring ideas. He now has nearly 250,000 followers.
“Consumers today want to see ‘transparency’ in business. If they feel a firm is touchable and reachable, they can see that transparency and that gives them confidence in the brand. By itself, a brand is something abstract and in the past, people didn’t know much about the brand’s chief executive. Today, the ability to communicate with the executive can create a lively connection,” says Rawit, 40.
Over the past several years, Rawit agrees that the executives of the top firms have increasingly presented their roles on online platforms. However, he says social media is just a channel of communication and is suitable for speaking on certain topics. But individuals who are reluctant to use this channel should not even try to do so, as netizens can immediately spot who’s authentic and who’s fake.
Rawit started using Facebook four years ago, followed by Podcast last year and Twitter just two months ago. Consistency in online presence is vital, he says. His Facebook account is normally updated every three days and he is relatively active in terms of Podcasts, putting out two episodes each of about 5 minutes everyday.
“Twitter is still new to me but it’s an interesting channel. People react promptly to a particular situation or issue so what they write is what they feel. I learn a lot from what they tweet and this data is very useful as it is not something I get from any marketing research tool.
“Consumers sometimes tweet me directly to comment about my products and this helps me improve the products and even get inspired to launch a new product line to meet their needs,” says Rawit.
He refuses to jump on Instagram because “I’m not keen on photography, so this channel doesn’t suit me.”
Nualphan Lamsam, president and chief executive officer of Muang Thai Insurance, is another businesswoman who successfully presents herself as a potential leader of empowered woman through the online strategies of her communications team.
Known as Madam Pang after her nickname, her insurance company is undergoing rebranding through the “Believe in Pang” campaign, which is centred on her vision and mission to expand the client base to include the young generation. Contacted by The Nation, her team, however, declined to give an interview about their strategic online planning.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is searching for a social media manager to maintain the Queen's presence in the public eye./AFP
And even the British royal family is keeping up with the trend! The royal household last month advertised an opening for a digital communications officer to find “new ways to maintain the Queen’s presence in the public eye and on the world stage”.
The successful candidate, who will earn an annual salary of around “30,000 pounds (Bt1.17 million) dependent on experience”, will be responsible for managing and overseeing the daily news flow on digital and social networking platforms, researching and writing feature articles.